Cassell's Vegetarian Cookery/intro

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Cassell's Vegetarian Cookery by A. G. Payne
Introduction

Introduction[edit]

We wish it to be distinctly understood at starting, that the present work is purely a cookery-book, written on the principles generally adopted by vegetarians; and as, until quite recently, there seemed to be in the minds of many some doubt as to the definition of vegetarianism, we will quote the following explanation from the head of the report of the London Vegetarian Society:—“The aims of the London Vegetarian Society are to advocate the total disuse of the flesh of animals (fish, flesh, and fowl) as food, and to promote a more extensive use of pulse, grains, fruits, nuts, and other products of the vegetable kingdom, thus propagating a principle tending essentially to true civilisation, to universal humaneness, and to the increase of happiness generally.”

We have no intention of writing a treatise on vegetarianism, but we consider a few words of explanation necessary. Years back many persons were under the impression that by vegetarianism was meant simply an abstention from flesh-meat, but that fish was allowed. Such, however, is not the case, according to the rules of most of the Vegetarian Societies of the day. On the other hand, strictly speaking, real vegetarians would not be allowed the use of eggs and milk; but it appears that many use these, though there are a considerable number of persons who abstain. There is no doubt that the vegetable kingdom, without either milk or eggs, contains every requisite for the support of the human body. In speaking on this subject, Sir Henry Thompson observes:—“The vegetable kingdom comprehends the cereals, legumes, roots, starches, sugar, herbs, and fruits. Persons who style themselves vegetarians often consume milk, eggs, butter, and lard, which are choice foods from the animal kingdom. There are other persons, of course, who are strictly vegetarian eaters, and such alone have any right to the title of vegetarians.”

In the following pages will be found ample recipes for the benefit of parties who take either view. In questions of this kind there will always be found conflicting views. We have no wish or desire to give opinions, but consider it will be more advisable, and probably render the book far more useful, if we confine ourselves as much as possible to facts.

The origin of vegetarianism is as old as the history of the world itself, and probably from time immemorial there have been sects which have practised vegetarianism, either as a religious duty, or under the belief that they would render the body more capable of performing religious duties. In the year 1098, or two years prior to the date of Henry I., there was a strictly vegetarian society formed in connection with the Christian Church, which lived entirely on herbs and roots, and the society has lasted to the present day. Again, there have been many sects who, not so strict, have allowed themselves the use of fish.

Again, there are those who adopt a vegetarian course of diet on the ground of health. Many maintain that diseases like gout and dyspepsia would disappear were vegetarian diet strictly adhered to. On the other hand, we have physicians who maintain that the great cause of indigestion is not eating enough. An American physician, some years ago, alleged he had discovered the cause, his argument being that the more work the stomach had to do the stronger it would become, on the same principle that the arm of a blacksmith is more powerful in consequence of hard work. Of one thing we are certain, and that is, there will always be rival physicians and rival sects; but the present work will simply be a guide to those who require, from whatever cause, a light form of diet. Perhaps the greatest benefit vegetarians can do their cause—and there are many who think very strongly on the subject—is to endeavour to take a dispassionate view. Rome was not built in a day; and if we look back at the past history of this country, during the last half-century, in regard to food, we shall see that there have been many natural changes at work. Waves of thought take place backwards and forwards, but still the tide may flow. Some fifty years ago there was, undoubtedly, a strong impression (with a large number of right-minded people) that plenty of meat, beer, and wine were good for all, even for young children. The medical profession are very apt to run in flocks, and follow some well-known leader. At the period to which we refer, numbers of anxious mothers would have regarded the advice to bring up their children as vegetarians and teetotallers as positive cruelty. This old-fashioned idea has passed away.

One great motive for adopting a course of vegetarian diet is economy; and here we feel that we stand on firm ground, without danger of offending sincere opinions, which are often wrongly called prejudices. To a great extent, the majority of the human race are virtually vegetarians from necessity. Nor do we find feebleness either of mind or body necessarily ensues. We believe there are tens of thousands of families who would give vegetarianism a trial were it not for fear. Persons are too apt to think that bodily strength depends upon the nature of the food we eat. In India we have a feeble race, living chiefly on rice. On the other hand, in China, for bodily strength, few can compare with the Coolies. For many years in Scotland the majority lived on oatmeal, while in Ireland they lived on potatoes. We do not wish to argue anything from these points, but to bring them forward for consideration. Probably, strength of body and mind, as a general rule, depends upon breed, and this argument tells two ways—it does not follow that vegetarians will be necessarily strong, and will cease to be cruel; nor does it follow that those who have been accustomed all their lives to eat meat will cease to be strong should they become vegetarians. As we have said, the great motive that induces many to give vegetarianism a trial is economy; and if persons would once get rid of the idea that they risk their health by making a trial, much would be done to advance the cause.

Another great reason for persons hesitating to make a trial is the revolution it would create in their households. Here again we are beset by difficulties, and these difficulties can only disappear gradually, after long years of patience. We believe the progress towards vegetarianism must of necessity be a very slow one. No large West End tradesman could possibly insist upon his whole establishment becoming vegetarians because he becomes one himself. We believe and hope that the present work will benefit those who are undergoing a slow but gradual change in their mode of living. This is easiest in small households, where no servants are kept at all, where the mistress is both cook and mother. It is in such households that the change is possible, and very often most desirable. In many cases trial will be made gradually. The great difficulty to contend with is prejudice, or, rather, we may say, habit. There are many housekeepers who feel that their bill of fare would instantly become extremely limited were they to adopt vegetarian ideas. There are few better dinners—especially for children—than a good basin of soup, with plenty of bread; yet, as a rule, there are few housekeepers who would know how to make vegetarian soup at all. In our present work we have given a list of sixty-four soups. At any rate, here is no lack of variety, as small housekeepers in this country are not famed for their knowledge of soup making, even with gravy-beef at their disposal.

On looking down this list it will be observed that in many cases cream—or, at any rate, milk—is recommended. We can well imagine the housekeeper exclaiming, “I don’t call this economy.” This is one point about which we consider a few words of explanation necessary. We will suppose a family of eight, who have been accustomed to live in the ordinary way, are going to have a vegetarian dinner by way of trial. Some soup has to be made, and one or two vegetables from the garden or the greengrocer’s, as the case may be, are going to be cooked on a new method, and the housekeeper is horrified at the amount of butter she finds recommended for the sauce. People must, however, bear in mind that changes are gradual, and that often, at first starting, a degree of richness, or what they would consider extravagance, is advisable if they wish to reconcile others to the change. In our dinner for eight we would first ask them how much meat would they have allowed a head? At the very lowest computation, it could not have been decently done under a quarter of a pound each, even if the dish of meat took the economical form of an Irish stew; and had a joint, such as a leg of mutton, been placed upon the table, it would probably have been considerably more than double. Supposing, however, instead of the meat, we have three vegetables—say haricot beans, potatoes, and a cabbage. With the assistance of some really good butter sauce, these vegetables, eaten with bread, make an agreeable meal, which, especially in hot weather, would probably be a pleasant change. Supposing, for the sake of argument, you use half a pound of butter in making the butter sauce. This sounds, to ordinary cooks, very extravagant, even supposing butter to be only one shilling per pound. Suppose, however, this half a pound of butter is used as a means of going without a leg of mutton? That is the chief point to be borne in mind in a variety of recipes to follow. The cream, butter, and eggs are often recommended in what will appear as wholesale quantities, but, as a set-off against this, you have no butcher’s bill at all. We do not maintain that this apparently unlimited use of butter, eggs, and occasionally cream, is necessary; but we believe that there are many families who will be only able to make the change by substituting “nice” dishes, at any rate at first starting, to make up for the loss of the meat. It is only by substituting a pleasant kind of food, that many will be induced even to attempt to change. Gradually the living will become cheaper and cheaper; but it is unwise to attempt, in a family, to do too much at once.

There are many soups we have given in which cream is recommended; for instance, artichoke soup, bean soup, cauliflower soup, and celery soup. After partaking of a well-made basin of one of these soups, followed by one or two vegetables and a fruit pie or stewed fruit, there are many persons who would voluntarily remark, “I don’t seem to care for any meat.” On the other hand, were the vegetables served in the old-fashioned style, but without any meat, there are many who would feel that they were undergoing a species of privation, even if they did not say so—we refer to a dish of plain-boiled potatoes and dry bread, or even the ordinary cabbage served in the usual way. Supposing, however, a nice little new cabbage is sent to table, with plenty of really good white sauce or butter sauce, over which has been sprinkled a little bright green parsley, whilst some crisp fried bread surrounds the dish—the cabbage is converted into a meal; and if we take into account the absence of the meat, we still save enormously. The advice we would give, especially to young housekeepers, is, “Persuasion is better than force.” If you wish to teach a child to swim, it is far easier to entice him into shallow water on a hot summer’s day than to throw him in against his will in winter time.

Another point which we consider of great importance is appearances. As far as possible, we should endeavour to make the dishes look pretty. We are appealing to a very large class throughout the country who at all cost wish to keep up appearances. It is an important class, and one on which the slow but gradual march of civilisation depends. We fear that any attempt to improve the extreme poor, who live surrounded by dirt and misery, would be hopeless, unless they still have some lingering feeling of this self-respect. For the poor woman who snatches a meal off bread-and-dripping, which she eats without a table-cloth, and then repairs to the gin-shop to wash it down, nothing can be done. This class will gradually die out as civilisation advances. This is seen, even in the present day, in America.

Fortunately, there is plenty of scope in vegetarian cooking not merely for refinement, but even elegance. Do not despise the sprinkle of chopped parsley and red specks of bread-crumbs coloured with cochineal, so often referred to throughout the following pages. Remember that the cost of these little accessories to comfort is virtually nil. We must remember also that one sense works upon another. We can please the palate through the eye. There is some undoubted connection between these senses. If you doubt it, suck a lemon in front of a German band and watch the result. The sight of meat causes the saliva to run from the mouths of the carnivorous animals at the Zoo. This is often noticeable in the case of a dog watching people eat, and it is an old saying, “It makes one’s mouth water to look at it.” In the case of endeavouring to induce a change of living in grown-up persons, such as husband or children, there is perhaps no method we can pursue so efficacious as that of making dishes look pretty. A dish of bright red tomatoes, reposing on the white bosom of a bed of macaroni, relieved here and there by a few specks of green—what a difference to a similar dish all mashed up together, and in which the macaroni showed signs of dirty smears!

We have endeavoured throughout this book to give chiefly directions about those dishes which will replace meat. For instance, the vast majority of pies and puddings will remain the same, and need no detailed treatment here. Butter supplies the place of suet or lard, and any ordinary, cookery-book will be found sufficient for the purpose; but it is in dealing with soups, sauces, rice, macaroni, and vegetables, sent to table under new conditions, that we hope this book will be found most useful.

As a rule, English women cooks, especially when their title to the name depends upon their being the mistress of the house, will often find that soups and sauces are a weak point. Do not despise, in cooking, little things. Those who really understand such matters will know how vast is the difference in flavour occasioned by the addition of that pinch of thyme or teaspoonful of savoury herbs, and yet there are tens of thousands of houses, where meat is eaten every day, who never had a bottle of thyme at their disposal in their lives. As we have said, if we are going to make a great saving on meat, we can well afford a few trifles, so long as they are trifles. A sixpenny bottle of thyme will last for months; and if we give up our gravy beef, or piece of pickled pork, or two-pennyworth of bones, as the case may be, surely we can afford a little indulgence of this kind.

A few words on the subject of fritters. When will English housekeepers grasp the idea of frying? They cannot get beyond a dab of grease or butter in a frying-pan. The bath of boiling oil seems to be beyond them, or at any rate a degree of civilisation that has not yet passed beyond the limit of the fried-fish shop. The oil will do over and over again, and in the end is undoubtedly cheaper than the dab of grease or butter thrown away. There are hundreds of men who, in hot weather, would positively prefer a well-cooked vegetable fritter to meat, but yet they rarely get it at home. Fruit fritters are also very economical—orange fritters, apple fritters, &c., because the batter helps to make the dish a meal.

Those who have practised vegetarianism for many years will probably be of opinion that we have not called sufficient attention to the subject of fruit and nuts. This is not because we do not believe in their usefulness, but because we think that those who are changing their mode of living will be far better enabled to do so without discomfort by making their chief alterations in diet in the directions we have pointed out. There is moreover little or no cookery involved in these articles.

Of the wholesomeness of fresh fruit all are agreed; and as people become more advanced vegetarians, the desire for fruit and nuts will follow in due course. In future years, as the demand increases, the supply will increase; but this is a question of time. Lookers-on often see more of the game than the players. It is not because the sudden change might not be beneficial, but because sudden changes are only likely to be effected in rare instances, that we have taken the view we have. Prejudice is strong, and it would be very difficult to persuade persons, unless they had been gradually brought to the change, to regard nuts in the light of food. To suggest a meal off Brazil nuts would to many have a tendency to put vegetarianism in a ridiculous light, and nothing kills so readily as ridicule.

In conclusion, it will be observed that from time to time we have used the expression, “if wine be allowed.” There is no necessary connection between vegetarianism and teetotalism, but it would be affectation to deny the fact that they are generally connected. Of the numerous arguments brought forward by the advocates of vegetarianism, one is that, in the opinion of many who speak with authority, a vegetarian diet is best adapted to those—of whom, unfortunately, there are many—who, from time to time, have a craving for more stimulant than is beneficial to their health. Many medical men are of the opinion that large meat-eaters require alcoholic stimulant, and that they can give up the latter more easily by abstaining from the former. This is a question for medical men to decide, as it does not properly come into the province of the cook.

We have repeatedly mentioned the addition of wine and liqueurs; but when these are used for flavouring purposes it is not to be regarded in the same light as if taken alone. There is a common sense in these matters which should never be overlooked. The teetotaler who attended the Lord Mayor’s dinner, and refused his glass of punch with his turtle-soup, would be consistent; but to refuse the turtle-soup itself on the ground that a little wine, probably Madeira, might have been added, would proclaim him to be a faddist. It is to be regretted that in the present day so many good causes have been injured by this ostentation of carrying ideas to an extreme. Practically, where wine is used in cookery, it is added solely for the peculiar flavour, and the alcohol itself is evaporated. To be consistent, the vast majority of teetotal drinks, and possibly even stewed fruit itself, would have to be refused on the same ground, viz., an almost infinitely small trace of alcohol. We think it best to explain the reason we have introduced the expression, “if wine be allowed.” In each case it is used for flavouring, and flavouring purposes only. We know that with some persons a very small amount of stimulant creates a desire for more, and when this is the case the small quantity should be avoided; but in the case of the quantity being so infinitely small that it ceases to have this effect, even if not boiled away as it really is, no harm can possibly arise. Where wine is added to soups and sauces and exposed to heat, this would be the case. On the other hand, in the case of tipsy-cake, and wine added to compote of fruit, this would probably not be the case. A great distinction should be drawn between such cases. It will be found, however, that in every case we have mentioned the addition is altogether optional, or a substitute like lemon-juice can be used in its place.